Iran Oil Industry Fires, Blasts Raise Suspicions of Hacking

A series of fires at Iranian petrochemical plants and facilities have raised suspicions about hacking potentially playing a role, with authorities saying that "viruses had contaminated" equipment at several of the affected complexes.

Iran officially insists the six known blazes over the span of three months weren't the result of a cyberattack. However, the government acknowledgment of supposedly protected facilities being infected points to the possibility of a concerted effort to target Iranian infrastructure in the years after the Stuxnet virus disrupted thousands of centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility.

Among the worst of the fires was a massive, days-long inferno in July at the Bou Ali Sina Petrochemical Complex in Iran's southwestern province of Khuzestan. Insurance officials later estimated the damage at some $67 million. Authorities preliminarily blamed the blaze on a leak of paraxylene, a flammable hydrocarbon, without elaborating.

Other recent blazes include:

-- A July 29 fire at a storage tank at the Bistoon Petrochemical Complex in Iran's western province of Kermanshah that authorities blamed on an electrical fault;

-- An Aug. 6 gas pipeline explosion in the port city of Genaveh that killed one person and injured three;

-- An Aug. 7 fire at a storage area of the Bandar Imam Khomeini Petrochemical Complex that burned for two days;

-- An Aug. 30 inferno that erupted in a sewage unit at Iran's South Pars gas field; and

-- A Sept. 14 gas leak and fire at the Mobin Petrochemical Factory that services the South Pars gas field that injured four workers.

Initially, Brig. Gen. Gholam Reza Jalali, who heads an Iranian military unit in charge of combatting cybersabotage, dismissed any notion that the fires could have been caused by hacking. Iran's aging oil pipelines and plants, hit hard by years of Western sanctions, have seen a rapid push to increase production this year to take...

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